On Wednesday, BCGEU treasurer, chief administrative and financial officer Paul Finch; BCGEU vice-president, component 1 corrections and sheriff services, Dean Purdy; and component 1 executive member Dave Iorizzo met with B.C. Attorney General Nikki Sharma and other senior government officials for another follow up meeting to discuss our union's ongoing recommendations for changes and improvements to B.C. Sheriff Services.
We reiterated our priorities that we have previously identified to the Minister, including moving the sheriffs to a 40-hour work week, moving sheriffs out of the Court Services Branch into its own branch under the Ministry of Attorney General (it does not make sense to have a civilian branch running a law enforcement agency), expanding sheriffs' duties, and changing to blue lights on sheriff vehicles.
The union has been pushing for many of these measures for over a decade. While recent actions from the Attorney General have been a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to address the staffing crisis in B.C. Sheriff Services. The recently announced recruitment and retention incentive payment, for example, is a path towards ensuring sheriffs are paid fairly, but we reminded Minister Sharma that the bonus payment is not pensionable nor is it in the current contract wage grid that would enable our members to take this increase to their bank as legitimate salary increase.
We also reminded the Minister that our union has been closely watching B.C.'s other law enforcement agencies as their contracts – we provided a copy of the Surrey Police Service (SPS) wage chart – are either newly ratified, or being negotiated in the coming months. These agencies have or likely will be receiving significant pay increases, which would further increase the pay gap with B.C. Sheriff Services.
The bottom line is that sheriffs must be paid a fair wage for their work, and the number one way to recruit and retain sheriffs is to increase their pay. This is about closing the wage gap between sheriffs and police. This is what you – our members – have been telling us for years, and what Dr. Brown's report from the B.C. Sheriff Service (BCSS) revealed last fall.
Minister Sharma indicated that she and her Ministry want to continue to make positive progress within B.C. Sheriff Services, and that she wants sheriffs to know that she hears their concerns and she ensured that the work is being done in order to make the changes sheriffs need.
We are optimistic that the Minister intends to take meaningful steps to address the issues we continue to raise. We know that the concrete solutions we've offered will help mitigate these serious issues.
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